Leef probes link between college education and prosperity

leefGeorge Leef explains for Forbes readers why more college education doesn’t necessarily translate into greater economic prosperity.

People (and countries) with little education are mostly poor, while people (and countries) with very advanced education are mostly wealthy. Therefore, it’s tempting to jump to the conclusion that partaking of more education will boost an individual’s income and that a country can increase prosperity by “investing” more in education.

Resist that temptation, which is based on fallacious reasoning.

True, education correlates with prosperity and economic growth, but one of the crucial lessons of logic is that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. We must apply it here.

People who have high intelligence and ambition often earn college and advanced degrees. Sometimes that formal education is important in their later success, but many say that their education had very little to do with it. Conversely, some extremely successful people dropped out of college or never attended at all. And as those ridiculous Occupy Wall Street protests taught us, huge numbers of college graduates are unemployed or employed only in jobs that don’t call for anything more than basic trainability.

Conclusion: Having a college education is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for personal success. Many people prosper without college, and many who have B.A. degrees or higher nevertheless struggle in low-paying jobs, often saddled with high student loan debts.

What that means for nations is that it isn’t possible to generate economic progress just by “investing” in education. More seat time, credits and degrees don’t automatically translate into more productive people.

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